Thursday, January 31, 2013

Asian Babies...for real!

+JMJ+

The time has come when I can officially share with all of you that...

...Michael and I are having a baby!

Yes, I'm pregnant and we are happy. The baby is due August 10th and we are sooo close to being out of the first trimester with no concerns, so we appreciate any and all prayers. Initially we wanted to wait to tell the "world" until we made it past the 3 month mark, but here we are now in week 12 and unable to hold it in any longer. Although our family and a few close friends already knew, we posted a Facebook status notifying the "online world" this week. So the cat's out of the bag...and the way I see it, now we'll have far more people praying for us no matter what happens (though let's pray for no complications - deal?).

Some of you readers may find the timing of my last few posts to be ironic given that I wrote all of them knowing I am pregnant. Rest assured, I still mean every single word I said about the fact that NFP does work. In fact, I'd say now that Michael and I are living proof. And for those of you that can't do math, no, this child isn't a "honeymoon baby" (why are people so obsessed with knowing this?!). Because we are newlyweds and most of our friends thought we planned to wait a year it also hasn't been an uncommon question of, "were you guys trying?"

The answer: not exactly. But because we practiced NFP we did know exactly what we were doing. As I quoted recently from IuseNFP's website,

"NFP is just as or more effective than typical contraceptives. Also an important difference between using NFP and using contraception is that a couple using NFP almost always knows when they are taking a chance. Couples using contraception have been sold a false bill of goods. One that says if they’re ‘smart’ they’ll use protection and a pregnancy won’t occur. True empowerment is full knowledge and being able to act accordingly."

So in short, for all the people that asked us if we were trying (as if that would somehow change our feelings of joy about this child anyway?), we didn't necessarily plan 100% on getting pregnant when we did but we both knew it could happen and were fine with it. One of the beautiful things about NFP is that it helps you understand the natural gift of life and what a blessing it is when God gives it to you through a child. So in our eyes, if God wanted us to have a baby now then I'd get pregnant when we knowingly took our chances. Clearly God has made His will known to us and we do embrace it.

I think one of the most common things that scares women away from NFP are women who practice it and get pregnant early on (like me) or couples that have lots of children. To someone unfamiliar with NFP, it can appear from the outside as if these young women already having lots of babies (so soon!) must mean that NFP does not work - but this couldn't be further from the truth. There are couples out there that have practiced NFP for years and don't yet have children (because they've discerned it's not the right time emotionally, financially, or because of their careers and grad school, etc.). However, a beautiful side effect of practicing NFP is that you inevitably become more receptive to the idea of having a child. I'm speaking personally here (not scientifically) when I suggest that so many women who practice NFP have children early on because their use of NFP opens them up more to the truth and love of conceiving a child. I recently read this post over at Catholic Cookie Jar about Caitlin's journey from using contraception to practicing NFP and how one result of this switch is that she and her husband find themselves increasingly more open to life, rather than fearing it. 

This is an important message to note about NFP: it doesn't teach us to fear what can happen to our bodies when we are intimate with our spouses. It does not teach us to fear pregnancy or children as if they are some kind of disease. Rather, NFP helps us respect what can happen to our bodies when we are intimate with our spouses and to be aware of the amazing things that could take place naturally if we do this knowing the woman is fertile at that time. It helps us to love our children when we discover we're pregnant and to embrace pregnancy and children for the beautiful, natural blessings they are. I've never heard of a woman practicing NFP and being completely horrified by a pregnancy. Sure, the thought of being a first time parent can be a tiny bit scary, but that's normal. What's not normal or healthy (in my opinion) is to be terrified by something that is not by any means a disease, a curse, or unnatural...yet this is where contraception leads most women and their partners. Instead, NFP helps us learn to abstain together when the woman is fertile if we feel strongly that we aren't ready to be parents.

For Michael and me? We're ready. And that's why we took a chance. That's all there is to it. After all, God doesn't call the "equipped." He equips the called and I trust Him to guide us.

If you followed my previous blog you may remember my post about Asian babies. In case you missed it: it summed up how later in my college years I, for some inexplicable reason, became enamored with Asian babies. Not just any babies (although I think pretty much all of them are cute in their own ways), but specifically Asian babies. When this happened I had never even dated an Asian man so I have no idea how or why this began. But as I reflect on this odd obsession I can't help but smile when I realize that it's probably just one more mysterious way in which God prepared my heart to be with Michael. I used to say that I would adopt an Asian child if I didn't marry an Asian man because I thought the babies were so cute...and for those of you that don't yet know: Michael is Asian.

So not only are my prayers and dreams of living out my vocation with Michael coming true through our marriage and now a child, but in a funny way God has made a silly dream of mine come true. Although considering my husband is half Korean and half Chinese I hardly think it silly any longer to say that I want half-Asian babies...because that's exactly what I know we'll have and that's all I could ask for - to have children with the man of my dreams.

Also, it's apparently a Korean tradition superstition that a pregnant woman should frequently look at pictures of beautiful children (i.e. you should cut out a picture from a magazine and stick it on your mirror or somewhere you look every day)...because that will make your child healthy and beautiful. I've been told numerous times by my mother-in-law to do this and I feel bad ignoring her, but Michael and I (as religious people that are certainly not superstitious) find this to be absurd. Besides, I'd rather not fill my head with images of children that aren't mine when I'm preparing myself to love this little boy or girl for whoever God created them to be. So perhaps this montage of Mason Moon pictures (who is a half-Korean model and baby actor) will somehow make up for my blatant disregard of my mother-in-law's advice. Enjoy!


So here's to the joys of love, marriage, and half-Asian children! I feel beyond blessed.

"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."
-Carl Sandburg

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

40 = 55M

+JMJ+

Last week Michael and I took a mini-vacation so we could be part of history in the making. I had personally been aching to attend the March for Life for the past several years and (thanks be to God) I finally was able to fulfill this dream. Not only that, but Michael and I were able to experience our first March for Life together! I cannot even put into words how much it means to me to be married to a man who is on the same page when it comes to protecting life, living and carrying out pro-life values, and following the teachings of the Catholic Church. Today marks 4 months of our marriage and I am still in awe and thanking God and the Blessed Mother constantly for leading me to Michael.

Because of Michael's work we weren't able to arrive in Washington D.C. until late Thursday night, which meant we were unable to attend the vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (perhaps we can cross this off my 'to-do' list sometime in the future). However, the ultimate event we traveled to D.C. for was the march itself so I can hardly complain. As someone who has been unable to attend the past several years ever, I know how blessed we were to just be there this year. We didn't even get to book our flights and hotel until the week before the event because there was still some uncertainty whether or not the trip would fit in our schedule. When I reflect on this I realize how incredibly blessed we were because we managed to find a last minute hotel within our desired budget that was also in a pretty great location.

We began early Friday morning by walking about 15 minutes from our hotel to Constitution Hall for the 19th annual National Prayer Service, which serves as a memorial for all the pre-born as well as their mothers and fathers. This event had come to my attention earlier in the week namely because Father Frank Pavone, Director of Priests for Life, was one of the founding members 19 years ago. Fr. Pavone spends much of his time traveling to parishes and spreading the word to others about the pro-life movement and how they can get involved. We were blessed to host him right here in Michigan at our parish the weekend before the March for Life. He is a dynamic speaker and after hearing his homily 5 days before the March Michael and I both knew we wanted to hear him again in D.C.

The prayer service that morning was an interfaith event that united all of us as we prayed for the unborn and heard testimonials from one married couple involved in the Silent No More campaign. Despite the fact that this prayer service was (considering how many pro-lifers were in town) relatively poorly attended (there were at least a few hundred people there when in reality that entire building could have been bursting at the seams), it was powerful. God was truly watching out for me as I decided to take a brief video clip of Fr. Pavone's speech because He helped me capture the moment when every single person erupted in applause and gave Father a standing ovation. The sound on the video hardly does it justice because in person it was bone-chilling and beyond inspiring as everyone cheered and brought his speech to a momentary hault. Check it out:


I believe it was immediately after I stopped recording this clip that I leaned over to my husband and whispered, "That man is going to be a Saint someday...and we received Communion from him." I still get worked up when I think about all of this.

After the prayer service we made sure to get a filling brunch and stock up on water before heading to the rally site for the March. Lo and behold, as we made our way to the National Mall we ran into herds of other pro-lifers marching down the closed off streets. We happily joined in the crowd as people chanted and standers-by acknowledged us from the sidewalks with applause and calls of, "I see you! Get it!"

We arrived shortly after noon (the time the rally portion of the day began) and although the Mall wasn't yet filled from side to side it was an exciting feeling to join in the several thousands already in attendance. As we wandered around admiring banners and signs we got nearer to the stage so we could see the speakers on one of the jumbo-trons. As we heard various speakers and watched inspirational video footage the Mall quickly became the temporary home of about half a million pro-lifers. HALF a MILLION. When the March began it took us over a half hour just to exit the Mall and get on the road because we were seriously packed between the shoulders of others fighting for an end to abortion in our nation. 


Despite the fact that we couldn't feel our toes, fingers, or various other limbs from the freezing cold, the March for Life was everything I could have dreamed it to be. The sheer ocean of half a million people pouring through the streets was enough to probably terrify anyone in support of abortion in this nation (which I'm confident is one reason the mainstream media provides next to zero coverage of this massive event). In fact, I had prepared myself mentally for the end of the March where pro-abortionists are known to line up with their own signs, yelling insults to pro-lifers as they walk by. When we actually encountered these people I thought to myself, "are you kidding me? This is all they have?" I saw maybe 15 individuals holding pro-abortion signs and attempting to insult us with their presence but all I could do was smile and pray as those 15 people had to stand there and watch HALF a MILLION people pass by them. If the topic of abortion weren't so serious the scenario would have been almost laughable. More than anything, though, I prayed for those 15 people because in all honesty they seemed...confused. One young woman held a sign that made zero sense and only sounded as if she were degrading herself as a woman which made me ponder how many pro-abortion women this also applies to in our country. Her sign, which was supposedly trying to support and encourage abortion read "F*** Bi*****, get abortions!" If anyone can possibly make sense of how this is supposed to paint the anti-life movement as somehow being in support of women, I'd love an explanation.

While the "pro-choicers" at the end of the March left me somewhat confused by their signs, the half a million people I marched with left me feeling hopeful and determined. One of my favorite moments of the entire March for Life was when we passed a street corner with about 7 little girls yelling this chant:

"Obama, Obama
thank-thank your mama!
Your mama chose LIFE!"

Did I mention that this was being yelled by 7 little girls? One of the best parts of the March for Life is seeing the youth in attendance. In fact, the marchers are overwhelmingly teens, young adults, and young families. The young people in this nation are fed up with how many brothers, sisters, and friends they are missing today because of Roe v. Wade. They can see it...so why can't Washington? I am confident that as these young people grow up already educated about abortion and what it really is we will someday end abortion in this nation. Until then we'll keep praying, educating ourselves and others, and working to support and love mothers facing unexpected pregnancies by giving them real medical information, treatment, support, and choices that don't cause them unnecessary physical or emotional harm in the ways abortion would. 

40 years of legalized abortion and 55 million children killed are 40 years and 55 million too many. If you know someone who feels they have no choice but to get an abortion, encourage them to call 1-800-395-HELP (4357) or 1-800-848-LOVE (5683) to receive information about centers in their area that can do more and do better for them.

My favorite photo I took at the 2013 March for Life

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Natural Family Planning is Superior to Birth Control, Part 2

+JMJ+

The other day I tried to shed a little light on Natural Family Planning (NFP). My "Part 1" entry shared the fact that not only does NFP exist, but it works well, doesn't require any contraceptives (and therefore doesn't have health risks/negative side effects), and there are several reasons people choose it over birth control regardless of their religious or moral beliefs. Today, however, Part 2 is going to be focused solely on the Catholic understanding of love, sexuality, children, and birth control.

If Catholics know that birth control goes against their church's teachings, why is this entry necessary?
The short answer: too many of them don't. Or think they do but really don't. Or they think it's okay to make up their own personal stance on the issue...but it's not (disagree? Make sure you read the entire entry.)

The longer discussion:
Many of you that read this blog are Catholic and already have some level of understanding surrounding the contents of this entry. However, I am quite aware of the fact that I have numerous friends and acquaintances that are Catholic but A) have no idea what the Church teaches, B) know the Church's teachings but don't understand it (and consequently think they don't agree with it), or C) believe they know the Church's teachings but sadly have been misinformed. Some of you, especially those that are not Catholic, may be wondering how on earth this could happen; how can so many Catholics be woefully misinformed or simply uninformed?? It's a great question that I could provide many answers and hypotheses for, but that would be another entry entirely.

Don't 98% of Catholic women use birth control anyway?
The short answer: No.

The longer discussion:
Let's briefly revisit the study produced by the Guttmacher Institute that claimed "98% of Catholic women use birth control." While the sad reality is that far too many Catholic women fall into the three categories I listed above (A, B, or C), I feel the need to quickly state something many of us already know: that this study doesn't provide anywhere near accurate numbers and should never be used as a valid source when discussing this topic. This article helps clear up some of the reasons the claims of this study are beyond misleading. Once we understand that the study intentionally excluded any Catholic women who had not had sexual intercourse in the past 3 months (there go all the nuns, religious Sisters, single celibate, etc.), excluded anyone who was pregnant, post-partum, or trying to get pregnant, and only took samples from women ages 15-44, we can easily begin to see how their statement that "98% of all Catholic women" use contraception is blatantly...wrong. Not to mention the study asked the women if they had ever used contraception (even just one time) but make it out to sound as if these women currently use contraception (all people make mistakes and I'd be willing to bet there are several devout women that use no contraception now but perhaps used a condom once when they were younger). I won't waste any more time going into all the details of this study and the false claims the media extracted from it, but I'd encourage any of you to read the article linked above that further debunks the study.

Now that all that's out of the way we know that the percentage of Catholic women using birth control is not 98%. However, too many do...and I'd venture to guess that out of the ones that do, most of them probably fall into categories B or C (listed above). So what does this mean? It means we have a huge lack of knowledge and theological understanding...so let's get at it.

What does the Catholic Church teach about sex and children?
Let's begin with the "longer discussion" on this one to ensure no one misunderstands the short answer:
The Church recognizes marriage as one of the 7 Sacraments and within this natural institution the sexual act is considered a very good, beautiful thing. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." -CCC, 1601

We can see that procreation is an important part of this Sacrament, although this does not mean that couples who cannot conceive are somehow living the sacrament in an incorrect manner; the graces of a fruitful marriage are not dependent on having children, however the creation of life is arguably one of the most beautiful fruits that can come of a marriage. And here's why: 

A simplified explanation of Blessed Pope JP II's Theology of the Body goes something like this: marriage and the creation of children is a witness to and earthly representation of the Holy Trinity. The love exchanged between God the Father and God the Son brought forth a further expression of love we know as God the Holy Spirit. So when a husband and wife come together in the ultimate physical way we can give love to our spouses, this love has the potential to bring forth a further expression of this love...a child.

Does this mean children should be viewed as treasured gifts from God that are a result of an act that within marriage is good? Absolutely! Does this mean Catholics are required to have as many children as physically possible? NO. Does this mean it's okay to prevent the possibility for a life to be created? NO. Confused? Read on.


The short answer:
Sex within marriage is a very good thing (sex outside of marriage is a *mortal sin because it doesn't take place within the Sacrament of marriage and cannot be a full gift of self from one spouse to another - instead it acts upon temptations and uses one another as objects of pleasure). Children are a result of this and are also considered very good and an important blessing. Children are always considered blessings, even if they are the result of sex outside of marriage because while the sexual act may have been sinful, the child has not sinned and is a precious life with the same human dignity God gives to all people.

Why does the Catholic Church teach that birth control is immoral?
Again, let's go with the longer discussion here:
The key to understanding all of this is to comprehend that a crucial part of the Sacrament of matrimony is the fact that being physically united in the sexual act has the potential to bring about new life. Remember how we discussed that sex between a married man and woman reflects the supernatural exchange of love between God the Father and God the Son? This love has the potential to create something - and when a child is conceived it's as if this exchange of love between the man and woman has produced the earthly reflection of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the conception of a child mirrors the completion of the Holy Trinity. Theology of the Body is complex theology that cannot fully be watered down into merely a few sentences, so I'd encourage you to begin studying it on your own. But let's get back to the key word in all of this: potential.

The Church teaches that birth control is immoral because it prevents us from truly being open to God's will. It completely closes us off from the potential of creating a life. This is not a good thing because it blocks unique children (who perhaps God desires us to create) from coming into existence and it says to God, "I will not let you guide my life. I choose to control my plans because it's most important that I be in control, not You." How can we let God be in control and live a true Christian life if we won't even let Him take the wheel? The answer is: we can't. Birth control separates us from this goodness of trusting in and following God, which is why the Catholic Church explains to us that contraceptives are sinful.

The short answer:
Contraceptives push us further away from God by putting ourselves in control instead of Him and prevent any children God would have blessed us with in that time-frame from ever existing. Not to mention, they make it easier to succumb to using our spouses as objects for pleasure whenever we desire, rather than loving them for their true self (body and soul).

I thought contraceptives could be moral if a married couple discerns that they aren't ready for children yet?
The short answer: Incorrect.

The longer discussion:
If you were told this by a priest or other vowed religious, it's not your fault.** This misguided notion of the Church's teachings stems from misunderstandings surrounding the Second Vatican Council and what it taught us. Some individuals took it upon themselves to say that the "Spirit of Vatican II" tells us birth control can be okay as long as it's within a marriage...and now we've got a generation of confused Catholics. Let me be clear when I tell you that the Catholic Church does not ever recognize contraception as a moral tool used to plan your family, even within a marriage. Here's what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the issue:

"...In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality." -CCC, 2370

Why is Natural Family Planning considered moral when birth control isn't? Isn't NFP the same thing as contraception?
The short answer: NFP is not the same as birth control, which is precisely why it's moral (it's the opposite of all the explanations why birth control is immoral). 

The longer discussion:
NFP never prevents a child from being born if it is God's will. It keeps God in control while we learn all kinds of important things about our bodies and fertility, which helps us take charge of our bodies and sexual desires without ever cutting God out of the picture because He has the ultimate control. This leads us to true freedom. With all of the knowledge we can prayerfully discern whether we feel God is calling us to become parents at that time or not. If not, we abstain when the woman is fertile which helps us learn to be disciplined in our sexual desires...rather than using our spouses as objects whenever we feel the urge. With NFP we must take a step back and constantly remember what the sexual act within a marriage is - a loving, total gift of self to the other. If we decide to perform this act when the woman is fertile, we know there is potential for a life to be created and in this way we are open to it if God desires it for us at that time. 

Many people cringe at the thought of ever abstaining, but as Catholics we recognize that this helps us take a step back and view sex in the right way, remembering what it is and what it isn't for. In fact, I'd say that most couples find that abstaining for awhile each month is the exact opposite of detrimental to their sex life...because it helps the couple value the act and look forward to once again being reunited each month.

So there you have it! The Catholic understanding of sex, love, children, and birth control in the smallest nutshell I could manage. Hopefully it helps all of you understand the beauty and love that shines forth from these teachings...and that they are far from being mean or oppressive because they provide us true freedom to follow and say 'yes' to God within our marriages. For more information about NFP, check out these resources: IuseNFP.com and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (on NFP)

Rather than closing with a quote I'll simply remind all of you that today marks the 40th anniversary since Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the U.S. and Doe v. Bolton which legalized it throughout all 9 months of pregnancy. Today is also the national day of penance and prayer for the unborn, so let us remember the 55 million+ children who have been lost to abortion in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade and let us pray for healing and offer up penances for all mothers, fathers, and healthcare workers who have been involved in abortions. 

* "For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent." (CCC,1857)
Translation: if sin normally classified as 'mortal' is committed without someone knowing it's a mortal sin, for them it wouldn't be considered 'mortal' but it would be a venial sin. This means they would be held accountable to a lesser degree because they didn't know, but it's still a sin they should repent and confess.

** "Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest." (CCC, 1860)
Translation: Our Church teaches that if we unintentionally sin (meaning we sinned but didn't know it was a sin) this will diminish or even remove any responsibility on our part for the sin when we have our judgement day. The act is still a sin (we just won't be punished as severely or perhaps at all - but only God knows), so once we realize this we should still repent and confess. Once someone understands something is a sin and does it anyway, the responsibility and accountability is theirs. What's the best thing we can do? Educate ourselves about sins and actively work on not committing them (this is a lifelong journey) and frequent confession. :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Natural Family Planning is Superior to Birth Control, Part 1

+JMJ+

Yesterday I sat down to write this post and realized I have wayyy more to say about this issue than I thought possible, which means this will become a two-blog-entries topic. I have so much to say, in fact, that I distinctly remember having a discussion at a bar during my Bachelorette Party with a few Catholic acquaintances from my college parish that showed up to say hi to some of the girls; what was the topic? Natural Family Planning, or NFP. That's right. I'm pretty sure this discussion was the result of them asking me how soon we'd have a baby or if I was excited to get married and someday become a mother, etc. In response I gave them the typical answer Michael and I had crafted saying that we'd "probably wait about a year before we try" and went on to tell them there is SO much to learn about NFP. This seriously happened. The fact that we were in a bar on my Bachelorette Party with me telling them that there is so much to learn about NFP was probably - to them - hilarious, weird, awkward, or perhaps all of the above. I don't really care, though, because I stand by what I said. I was encouraging them to learn more about it sooner rather than later to help them if'/when they all get married...and this is something I would encourage any young woman to do.

I'm sure that many of you reading this blog that are Catholic already have some level of knowledge about NFP and perhaps you even practice it in your own life. However, I know I have some friends who probably read this blog that 1) aren't Catholic, 2) don't realize NFP is not just for Catholics, or 3) are Catholic but don't know what I'm talking about. Don't worry - I'm not going to go into personal or medical details about what NFP entails (you can learn more about that on your own time and I'll provide some useful links throughout this entry). Rather, I'd simply like to talk about NFP - what it is and what it is not.

The second entry I'll write on this topic will focus on the Catholic understanding of NFP and why it is a good, moral tool to use with your spouse while birth control is not (this is a fact when it comes to Catholic teaching, not merely my personal opinion...so if you are a fellow Catholic who takes issue with this - stay tuned! The next entry is mainly for you and anyone else seeking to understand the Catholic teachings on love, sexuality, children, and birth control). For now, however, let's focus on things that are not of a moral or religious nature.

For some reason, the general public knows little about and often dismisses NFP as a valid way of spacing out having children because: people believe it's a method only Catholics practice (false!), that it's the same thing as the "rhythm method" (false!), or that it's an ineffective method that surely results in having a lot of children (false!). Don't believe me on that last one? Check out these statistics that compare the effectiveness of several NFP methods vs. the Pill and condoms. In fact, you can tell just by looking at the numbers that when it's used properly, NFP is equally effective if not more effective than the Pill...without all the nasty side effects and health risks.

This brings me back to the first misconceived notion that only Catholics practice NFP. Is it true that due to religious and moral beliefs more NFP users are Catholics? Quite probably, yes. However, there are several reasons individuals choose NFP over birth control and many of them have nothing to do with religion or faith.  Borrowing from iusenfp.com's "Top 10 Reasons to Use NFP" I'll summarize their list (see the lengthier/full explanations here):

10. It's free.
9. It doesn't cause cancer.
8. Couples using NFP report having more sex than couples that use contraception.
7. It doesn't kill your sex drive.
6. It is complete healthcare.
5. No abortifacient properties. *Update 1/21/12: Unfamiliar with or don't believe how various contraceptives can possibly abort a child? Check out this brief explanation from Katie at NFP and Me.
4. It's "green."
3. It helps you (and your partner!) understand your body.
2. No side effects.
1. It works.

If you are an avid user or supporter of birth control, I hope this list allows you take a step back and think. Most people I know that use birth control use it because it's the only way they know to prevent pregnancy. I've heard the arguments before about how some people can't afford to have children, an unplanned pregnancy results in abortion, etc. etc. Regardless of the arguments or excuses, wouldn't you prefer women to be educated about their bodies and their sexual health in ways that empower them (rather than suggesting their fertility is something that needs to be suppressed), don't cost any money, and don't cause negative medical side effects??? At this point I feel dangerously on the brink of repeating something I already wrote about on my former blog, so for more discussion on this issue I'd redirect you to this entry about how contraception is not the best thing for women in impoverished situations.

So why else should women and their partners consider NFP instead of using contraception? While I think the list of 10 reasons above covers most of it, I'd simply like to reiterate what NFP is. Simply put, NFP is a way of learning about your monthly cycle through observation and tracking methods which you can easily chart online (I've personally used fertilityfriend.com but there are others as well), on paper, or on cool phone apps for smart phone users. By charting this information about your own body's signs you can begin to learn with great accuracy when you're fertile and when you're not (sometimes we forget that unlike men, we are not perpetually fertile!). This means NFP is great whether you want to prolong having a child or if you want to conceive. If you want to conceive you'll know when you should be having sex and may even be able to pinpoint your day of ovulation to increase the odds. If you don't want to have a child yet, you simply abstain from being sexually intimate when you're fertile.

It sounds simple enough, but often when I get to the point of telling someone that abstinence is an important part of NFP the response becomes one of indignance that refuses to put their sexual desires on hold for one minute. In my opinion, this is how society has twisted the notion of "freedom" and "women's rights." Is drugging ourselves with hormones (that have harmful side effects) just so we can have sex whenever and wherever we want healthy and liberating? I fully believe these are lies our society tells us: that you can only fully be a woman and enjoy life if you put harmful drugs into your body. Our fertility is not a disease and neither are children. In the second entry on this topic I'll dive further into detail about how abstinence for a short period of time each month can be hugely beneficial to a relationship.

I think at this point it's also important to point out that many women who are on the Pill or use other forms of contraception often have difficulty conceiving children once they decide they are ready. When the Pill was first invented we were ignorant of many side effects; nowadays we know better and it should be common knowledge that being on the Pill for an extended period of time can decrease or permanently damage a woman's fertility. Not only that, but if someone has been dependent on condoms or the Pill and then decides to stop and get pregnant, that woman is going to know wayyy less about their body than a couple who practices NFP together. In fact, I personally know of a woman who was on the Pill for 5 years, went off of it, and had problems conceiving. She had to learn about NFP just to learn about her own fertility because she realized she was clueless - but once she did, her body was too damaged from being on the Pill so long. If it's God's will for her and her husband to have a child I know He will bless them in this way, but it's been a long, challenging road that they have battled on for the past few years as they have tried everything to conceive.

At the end of the day I know I have friends who use contraception and they may even dismiss everything I've said here and that's their decision. But the fact remains that far too few women know that NFP does not require any sort of birth control and is more effective than contraception, let alone that it even exists. If nothing else, I hope this entry will help shed light on this matter and help women realize they do have options to take control of their fertility without harming their bodies (and it's FREE!). My older sister is currently undergoing training to be a certified NFP instructor so if anyone has questions I can't answer I'm sure I can relay them to her and help find answers. Stay tuned for Part 2!



"NFP is just as or more effective than typical contraceptives. Also an important difference between using NFP and using contraception is that a couple using NFP almost always knows when they are taking a chance. Couples using contraception have been sold a false bill of goods. One that says if they’re ‘smart’ they’ll use protection and a pregnancy won’t occur. True empowerment is full knowledge and being able to act accordingly.

NFP doesn’t just work for postponing pregnancy. Charting helps a couple trying to get pregnant recognize their most fertile windows take advantage of these optimal times. It can also help a woman recognize irregularities in cycle and help her physician diagnose her specific problem. Because of this customization, it has been proven more effective at achieving a pregnancy than IVF."
-iusenfp.com, emphasis added